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Seven Ways to Throw a Successful Staff Celebration

By Michelle Collins |

So you're tired of having the same old egg-nog toast as you hand out the year end bonus. Or maybe you've had a rough year and you want to do something special for your employees without straining your budget. We've put together seven tips that can make your year-end event a success.

  1. Include everyone
    While many observe Christmas traditions, just as many hold different beliefs. You don't want to alienate the people you're trying to reward by offering them a personalized Santa hat for the party. It could be a wise decision to turn the event into something more generic as an appreciation event.

"If you're an organization that says they recognize and promote sensitivity as one of your core values, then one of your sensitivities should be around recognizing that people have different faiths," says Carol Ferguson, Vice President of TOWHEY Consulting group.

  • Make a plan
    "In any event, first of all we need to know how many people will be there," says party planner Marion Clare. "Then we need to know the top line budget, because that saves an awful lot of time with the planning."

    Once you know how many people to expect and how much money you have to work with this will make your next steps easier. Location, food and drink are the key components to any event, says Clare who operates Illusions and Themes out of Victoria, BC.

    Clare also points out that these are the stages where you can find easy ways of keeping your costs down. Having the event in the office and supplying your own food are obvious examples. For something more extravagant you could ask employees to take on some of the costs, although you should try to avoid it if possible.

    "I think the days are very few that you have those big blow-out office parties anymore, where everything is paid for and you have singing and dancing," says Ferguson. "Even just ordering pizza every Friday in the month of December can be a nice touch."

  • Look into your legal obligations
    One sure way to put an end to your festive spirit is to find yourself in a legal battle over an incident that took place during your party. Both Ferguson and Clare stress that you check with a legal advisor about where your obligations begin and end.

    "If you're having the party at the office it would be my strong recommendation that you check with your landlord to find out if there are any premises issues with having alcohol on site, do you have to get a permit? Just don't assume that you'll have it in the office and bring in all this stuff, because there may be some premises issues that they need to contend with as well," says Ferguson.

    Providing employees with a taxi-service or shuttle bus is something that Clare often sees companies doing. This ensures that employees get home safely and alleviates your liability if something does happen.

  • Decorations
    While they aren't necessary decorations can help make the atmosphere more festive. This doesn't have to involve pulling out the tinsel and red bows. Try to go against the grain.

    "If it's a finance company that can be pretty conservative we would go overboard to give them a really stunning theme. Whereas, if it were a retail store then we would probably play it down a bit because they've got that more versatile image anyway," says Clare.

    One way to keep down both the cost and time spent on decorations is to create focal points, advises Clare. Rather than transforming the whole room, you might want to dress up the lunch table with a tablecloth and some candles or whatever else you can think of.

  • Be on your best behaviour
    If you decide to serve alcohol at the year-end party, make sure that your employees understand that this is not a license to misbehave, warns Ferguson. This doesn't have to mean patronizing them, simply providing them with a glass of wine at dinner and offering a variety of non-alcoholic drinks can do it.

    It's fine to let loose and have a good time, but remember you all have to work together the next day. A comment made by someone who has had too much to drink can create tension in the days ahead.

  • Lunch instead of dinner
    You can avoid a lot of potential challenges by simply holding a luncheon event for your staff. Employees don't have to feel anxious about bringing a date, or finding a babysitter; and business owners can minimize costs.

    A lunch event also allows you to minimize the problems that alcohol can cause. People are less likely to overindulge if they have to go back to their desks for the afternoon, says Ferguson. You could also use the time to hand out employee or team awards to help maintain a professional tone.

  • Have fun
    Whether you have a Christmas party, an awards ceremony, or a year-end celebration the goal is to ensure that you and your employees have fun. This could be the only time during the year that everyone is together. Take the opportunity to thank everyone for their contributions.

    "It is a celebration, pats on the back are a good thing. Don't take this as the opportunity to talk about if things are a little tight that year. This is a good news celebration, keep it in the good news arena," says Ferguson.

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